Thursday, 29 November 2007

Bean Sprouts

My sister Mel has a really cool blog.

Jared Shear - Working on a theme

I found the Cougar Peak site earlier this year, and I've followed it on and off for some time. Jared Shear has been painting the scene across from his house (lucky guy to have this view) every day through 2007. It's just amazing how diligent he's been and how he's managed to re-invent and keep the momentum.
The painting I've shown here is number #317 done on 13 November 2007.
Some of his paintings are serene, some very overcast, some are livelier than others. But they each tell a story, and as a collection they're astonishing.
When he's done he intends to hold an exhibition showing all of the series, but as he's from Montana my chances of attending are slim to nil. Still, it's lovely to dip into his site on a regular basis.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Sanctuary Knocker, Durham

On Saturday my cousin and I took the kids to Durham, and wandered round the most awe-inspiring cathedral in the world, and to get damp in the drizzle down by the river. I was disappointed by the postcards available, so decided to make some studies of my own - of windows viewed from the cloister and of the Sanctuary Knocker. I hope you like the latter drawing. My son (aged 7) says it looks like it was drawn by a real artist. I took that as a compliment.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

7 of 7 of Roker Sky #1

Here it is. I'm not totally happy with the roofs, I think they look like burnt-out industrial units, which wasn't the intention. But I'm glad I put them in because they were essential, and I could have made excuses for not taking the plunge for weeks. But then I would have been left with a 'pretty' sky, which wasn't my intention either.

Also, the whites in the upper areas weren't white but a very pale grey, the only area of true white was near the skyline where the sun was shining, under lighting the clouds. I won't change the painting at this stage as the paint is still very wet. I may put a slight grey tint over them when the paint's cured more.

In the next one the roofs will be on a smaller scale so that the sky looks even bigger.

The photo has pixilated the colours, but if you send me $5,000.00 I'll be happy send it to you, if you agree to pay the postage.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

steps 5 and 6 of 7

Almost there now. Stepping back to make sure I hadn't compromised any proportions, which might result in a contrived-looking scene, I saw that there were greens in the greys and yellow in the whites, so I added these, and suddenly the painting was 'lifted' to another level. I'm definitely going to do more sky gazing, making a note of any colours I see other than blue, grey and white, for future reference.

I built up the depth of oil paint in the lower portion, as I knew I wanted to slice into the paint when adding the rooftops. This is when I started to hesitate. How to add the rooftops. I only had a fleeting urge to leave this one as it was, and add rooftops top the next painting. But NO! They were an integral part of my idea. I must be brave.

You'll have to wait until tomorrow to see if I pull it off. here's hoping.

Friday, 23 November 2007

stages 3 and 4 of 7

When running downhill very fast, if you stop to think, then you'll fall over. That was the sensation I had when I was painting this. I think I held my breath for those 2 hours.
I'd take a slug of water every so often, stepping back to judge where I was up to, then I'd launch back in, to make a change, or to move on down the canvas.
I could see that the clouds were lit from below and slightly from behind. This was a sky in the late afternoon, early winter, with only an hour of light left in the day. It rained later that evening.

To think, those clouds don't exist any more. It's not like painting a landscape, where the hills and trees will be there tomorrow, even though the light changes and the seasons advance. With skies, I don't know. But it's different. I know one thing can't me more unique than another unique thing. But skies are. Maybe I just need more coffee.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

stage 1 and 2 of 7

I made a start in oils on a sky today, working from the photos I took.

The canvas is about 14" by 20". I decided to work on it as though I was painting a landscape, blocking in the distant blue sky first, getting the general proportions, but keeping it loose. Then I painted over the blues in a wash of white spirit, because i didn't want the texture of the canvas showing through with any dry-brushing in those areas.

Then, starting top left where the deep grey cloud bank was, I worked my way gradually down. I worked with my eyes half-shut sometimes at this early stage to sketch in the areas of deepest greys and blues. I was amazed at how twisting and contorted some of the areas of cloud were.
Whilst I was working on this, I was listening to Mendelssohn's 'Elijah', a very stirring choral work which suited, or maybe even set the mood perfectly.
I have finished this in the one 2 hour sitting, but I think I'll build your anticipation and reveal it over the next few days. I can say at this moment that I'm very excited about this painting. And already I can see what I want to do next.

Here's what's got me excited

This is a photo of the sky over Roker last week. For anyone who's not familiar with Roker, we're on the corner of the River Wear on the North East coast of England, looking east over the North Sea.
Now if I can paint this, without making it look pretty, I'll be a happy person indeed.

Today I hope to get more photos as it's about to rain and the clouds are black and saturated, and there's a bank of cloud hanging heavily in the sky like a scruffy old wet floor-cloth.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Storm tide

Last week there were banks of black seaweed that had been driven high up the beach by the usual seasonal winter tide, but also a great swell caused by high winds on the North Sea. The shops along the front had laid down sand bags in preparation, and we saw dozens of lobster pots that had been ripped loose and washed up in the rage. I observed this scene in the calm light of day, but knew the great force that had caused it.

Monday, 19 November 2007

An alley-cats playground

I'm enjoying capturing these interlocking roofs. Looking at these just on plain paper, I can imagine the painted sky behind. Chalky grey-white, with darker blue and red under-painting showing through. The roofs picked out in payne's grey, and the telephone wires just sliced through the paint with a sharp point.
I've also had the idea of glueing torn paper in strips across the canvas, then painting over that to add subtle texture to the sky.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

These are great!

Actually, they're awful. They're oil pastel studies of the sky over Roker. I could see that the sky is like a landscape, and the further towards the horizon you look, the more compact the formations seem to get, in a way. The cloud banks were grey, with yellow highlights.

What makes me happy with these, even though they fail in so, so many ways, is that they show I've made a start in trying to get to grips with the sky. Hey! Things can only get better, right?

Friday, 16 November 2007

Roker skyline

Here are some more rooftops I drew yesterday. They're all from the alleyways behind my house. I love the way the buildings have been added onto, with extensions, skylights and conservatories. The back walls are different heights as people have fitted garage doors, or blocked in coal chutes.
The telephone wires cut across, and it's easy to miss them. I've drawn them too thick here. But I know they're going to be an important part in the final composition. I'm thinking about how to paint these full size. I may opt for acrylic rather than oil. I can worry about that later though.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

The idea

.... was to create large canvases depicting multi-layered Northern England skies, with a sliver of rooftops across the bottom, possibly in silhouette,possibly in greys and pale yellows, as I'd seen back lit walls turn in cold, early morning sunlight.

I've been struck by LS Lowry's skies. They look blank in reproductions in books, but in real life (and we're lucky to have some originals in Sunderland Winter Gardens) there's a lot more to them.

I've also been stunned by Schiele's flat white skies, with depths of colour behind. They make me want to grab a palette knife and start smearing.

So, for the last week or so I've been peering intently at the sky any time of day I can, and amazed at how we seem to never get simple weather. There's always so many layers - high thin clouds in horizontal wisps, banks of thick dense cloud, lit wonderfully around 16.30 as I leave work, and often, when there's a strong, wet wind, these fantastic streaks of rain-laden cloud screaming across in front of all that. And yet, they clear sky peering through is the translucent blue of a newborn babies eyes.

So, the drawing on the earlier post was an early attempt, with only a pencil to hand, to capture these skies.

The second part is the rooftops I love. So, this afternoon I ventured out to draw some, literally round the back of my house. As I said, my first idea was to have these as almost back silhouettes at the bottom of the picture, but when I've looked back through the drawings i made, I love the lines they describe. So I'm thinking of leaving them as outlines, laid over the skies, still at the bottom as an anchor almost, but looser, more linear and drawn livelier than flat shapes.

Now I'm off out to draw more rooftops in charcoal. This feels very exciting.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

My first Remembrance Sunday

Today is the first time I've really thought about all the services held at this time of year, and it's the first time I've ever bought a poppy.

I have always considered myself a pacifist. And I have never involved myself in Remembrance Sunday because I have never been able to reconcile my own personal feelings about war and violent conflict with the idea of celebrating the fact that men and women have died for mine and other's freedom.

But this year, earlier this week, it clicked for me. It was a simple poster I saw of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal, and the words were along the lines of 'Remember those who lost their lives in conflict'. It didn't mention any specific war, battle, or period of time, or whether it were referring to soldiers or civilians, or to guerrilla action, terrorism, oppressive dictators.....

Anyway, as I've done no painting today, only spent time with my immediate family, I thought I should still post something, and this is what has been at the back of my mind today.

Lest we forget.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Change of plans...

drawing from 'Aileen' by Perdita Sinclair Nov 07Instead of my spending the afternoon painting, hubby offered to take care of the kids so that I could go to the Laing Gallery in Newcastle to see this year's BP Portrait Awards.

My favorite there I was a lively and engaging study by Perdita Sinclair called 'Aileen'. The two others I loved were 'The King of Spain' by Diarmuid Kelley, and 'Christa' by Jaime Valero Perandones. They're all on the National Portrait Gallery site, as I've just found.

Photo-realism was popular, but some left me cold. The winning portrait was a large painting of an elderly gentleman. Although this one could also be descibed as photo-realism, rather than just reproducing what was seen the artist also put a lot of atmosphere and feeling into the painting. It wouldn't have been my personal choice to win, but I don't disagree passionately with the decision.

It didn't make me want to seek out more of his works though, like the Perdita Sinclair one did.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Can you tell what it is yet?

I am very excited. VERY excited. In fact I'm driving my hubby mad because of it.

Today, as I drove into work after dropping the kids at the childminder's I had to turn off the radio because I found it distracting. There was something in my head, and I didn't know what, and I needed time to think. So I thought. And I looked. And I thought some more. You know, I really shouldn't do that whilst driving; it's just not safe.

And then it came to me, in an expansive and awe-inspiring and urgent way.

When I pulled up in the car park I started drawing, too tight to start off with, and then I got it, and I would have carried on all morning, only I had to get into work.

As I drove home, I was bitten by it again, and by the time I got home I was fit to burst and was jibbering excitedly to my husband after a brief peck hello.

So, here's one preliminary sketch and, in the words of Rolf Harris "can you tell what it is yet?".

Tomorrow I'm intending to put brush to canvas, and maybe charcoal to paper. But for now you'll just have to trust me. This is going to be big. In fact I can't think of a subject matter that's much bigger. Any ideas yet?

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Simply drawing isn't enough

Park-keeper's House, Roker Park Oct 07
I'm not happy with just drawing what I see. I'm fed up with pretty pencil sketches of interested buildings and the like. I've gotten into a safe rut, and I want out.

Monday, 5 November 2007


drawing from 'Man in a fur cap' Oct 07
While wandering round the Leopold Collection, I walked into a room and was drawn into a corner by a painting called 'Man with a fur cap (my brother the animal)' by Albert Birkle. The contract with light and dark, the strength of the painting just gripped me. Here's the drawing I did whilst stood looking at it. Unfortunately I can't find a reproduction of it, but the weaselly face, the depth of colour in the dark background, the strength of drawing beneath the painting, evident in the ears and eyes. I sound like a late night channel 4 arts programme, and I feel like I should be wearing a black polo neck under a grey jacket. But I mean all I say.
It's coming across paintings like these that make me want to visit every art gallery I can.
Oh, and if you read about a theft of a dozen or so works from the Leopold galley, it'll have been me. I should create my own fantasy art collection.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Creative Journal

Since October this year I've been keeping a journal of ideas, sketches, images, quotes, ideas etc. Also, the odd shopping list if that's all the paper I have on me. I keep it with me at all times. Well, most of the time. While waiting for my husband at the bank I drew a scene across the river, while waiting at Durham train station last night I sketched the grand entrance. I woke up in the middle of the night with an idea for a children's story, and instead of lying there, worrying that I'd forget the idea, I got up and wrote it in the journal.journal page 14 October 2007

It's good to get things out of my head and down onto paper, and it's good to have them all in one place, where I know they are, instead of on scraps of paper all round the house. Keeping a journal has also helped cement the idea that my thoughts and ideas, sketches, observations, hopes, regrets, and all part of an ongoing creative process for me.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Schiele landscapes

study from 'house with a shingle roof' Oct 07
At The Leopold Museum, Vienna, I also saw 'House With A Shingle Roof', an oil painting of a house in his mother's home town. I had no idea that Schiele had painted such strong landscapes. The tiles on the roof were a multitude of colours, but were unified by the graphic black outlines. Again, I stood there for an age peering at it. Then I started drawing it, working from the left hand side, and I started to realise what a complex composition it was.

The museum shop had a very good postcard, which I bought, but I've been unable to find a good picture on-line to put on the blog, so instead I've posted my study, partly done from the original painting, then using the postcard.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Egon Schiele - negative spaces

Egon Schiele's Seated Male Nude 1910

I went to Vienna a few weeks ago, and it was the most amazing trip of my life. I'm sure to refer back to it a lot in future, but for the time being I want to talk about my Schiele experience.

The day we were setting off, a book on Viennese Art arrived, so I dove into it, reading about the Succession in relation to the politics of the time. The last artist covered in the book was Schiele. What I knew of him was from postcards I'd seen as a student of line drawings of women with red hair and legs akimbo.

So, while in Vienna, I visited the Leopold Museum, and got my socks knocked off. Nearly a whole floor is dedicated to Schiele, and it holds, amongst other treasures, his 'Seated Male Nude - a self portrait'. It's about 2 metres square, and it grabbed me from the first.

I'm not sure how long I stood in front of it, about 20 minutes or so? I kept discovering different things as walked closer to it, then stood back again over and over; the graphic outlines round the body, the over-painted chalky background, the hairs on the legs like twisted wires, the curious spaces formed by the area between the upraised arm and the head, the belly shape, the three red circles formed by the nipples and the single eye, the way he 'amputated' the limbs...... take a breath! ......the hair, the hip bones, the way he's broken it into composite shapes, and yet still manages to create a solid form, which made me think of Picasso's cubist figures.

I bought a print of it which is now on my living room wall. In fact, when I emerged from the museum and met up with my husband again, I showed him the dozen or so postcards I'd picked up, and asked him if he could guess which one I'd also bought a print of. Amongst them were landscapes, portraits, abstracts, and interiors. He picked the seated male nude straight off, he knows me so well.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

A Portrait of a Friend

Watercolour study of Mike Nov 07

pencil studies of Mike Nov 07
Actually, he's a friend of my dad, from Eire. But when I first met him, apart from his gentlemanly demeanour, I immediately thought he was a lovely specimen. To paint.

Well, he kindly obliged to be photographed by my dad, and here are some preparatory sketches I've done so far. I also did an ink drawing, but I'd mailed it to my dad before it occurred to me to photograph it for this blog. Because I'm a nincompoop!

It struck me to do some lino prints from the studies. None of the photos have inspired me to do an oil painting. Maybe when I next visit Eire I'll ask him if he'd pose for me in his work van, or in dad's woodwork shop. He strikes me as a great 'Poseidon' maybe.

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